Soon, my exhibit Looking Back will open at Regis College. I’m looking forward to the opening and seeing family and friends and new faces and to see how the paintings will look all hung together in the gallery. For me there are two successes that matter right now. The first one is when I am working on any one painting within, or not, a series and the finished painting has “magic” — it works — it has life and can stand on its own. I love this part of painting. It doesn’t always happen but it does often enough to keep me going. It’s exciting and it’s a powerful feeling to make something new that I know is good. It matters less and less if others agree because I’ve seen people come around to liking things and I know that tastes vary and not everyone thinks Rothko is a genius. Universal appeal will never come for an artist. Even in music, not everyone loves U2. Georgia Okeefe said, “I have already settled it for myself so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free.” Yes, Georgia, me too.
The second success, I feel, is showing the paintings in a room where people can come and see them. My paintings hang in my apartment and I live with them. I love looking at them and being with them but I love to get them out and into other spaces. That is exciting. I love planning for shows and all the work and logistics that go into it. I’m grateful for all the people that help put it together.
I read recently that artists should prepare for the post show blues. A friend said, start the next thing now. Today I did prep some canvases for a small series for what’s next — but who knows if the magic will happen but is usually does . . . you just have to keep going, keep preparing for the next thing. Not getting thrown off by unknowns.
In 2003, I was painting a series of fish, freshly caught and painted quickly before the color and life had completely drained out of them. I was on the beach in the shade underneath the cottage. Rags ripped, paint orderly squeezed out in generous helpings, canvas on easel. My brother’s boat now in view speeding towards shore at full speed, I knew he had one. My dad and neighbors lurking around just out of sight trying not to disturb me, they were, but they weren’t stopping me . . . they were staying away enough that I felt I could freely work. Holding the bluefish by the gill Josh brought the fish to where I was and I said “it’s a good one” and he left. Then I realized. . . no brushes. I had forgotten to pack my brushes. I had everything! Not letting the moment go to waste, I just dove in with my fingers and a stick that I found laying in the sand. At one point I heard my dad say, “She’s using her hands! She must not have her brushes!” Then I heard him say, I’m buying that one. Pressure. After all that, the painting was good. It worked. It captured the colors and vitality of the fish — a moment.
I’m always as prepared as I can be but I’m also ready for the unknowns . . . how else will the magic happen?